September Devotion: Our Lady of Sorrows

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September Devotion: Our Lady of Sorrows

Since the 16th century Catholic piety has assigned entire months to special devotions. Due to her feast day on September 15, the month of September has traditionally been set aside to honor Our Lady of Sorrows. All the sorrows of Mary (the prophecy of Simeon, the three days’ loss, etc.) are merged in the supreme suffering at the Passion. In the Passion, Mary suffered a martyrdom of the heart because of Our Lord’s torments and the greatness of her love for Him. “She it was,” says Pope Pius XII, “who immune from all sin, personal or inherited, and ever more closely united with her Son, offered Him on Golgotha to the Eternal Father together with the holocaust of her maternal rights and motherly love. As a new Eve, she made this offering for all the children of Adam contaminated through his unhappy fall. Thus she, who was the mother of our Head according to the flesh, became by a new title of sorrow and glory the spiritual mother of all His members.”

Prayer:

INVOCATIONS Mary most sorrowful, Mother of Christians, pray for us. Virgin most sorrowful, pray for us.

TO THE QUEEN OF MARTYRS Mary, most holy Virgin and Queen of Martyrs, accept the sincere homage of my filial affection. Into thy heart, pierced by so many swords, do thou welcome my poor soul. Receive it as the companion of thy sorrows at the foot of the Cross, on which Jesus died for the redemption of the world. With thee, O sorrowful Virgin, I will gladly suffer all the trials, contradictions, and infirmities which it shall please our Lord to send me. I offer them all to thee in memory of thy sorrows, so that every thought of my mind, and every beat of my heart may be an act of compassion and of love for thee. And do thou, sweet Mother, have pity on me, reconcile me to thy divine Son Jesus, keep me in His grace, and assist me in my last agony, so that I may be able to meet thee in heaven and sing thy glories. Amen.

TO THE MOTHER OF SORROWS Most holy Virgin. and Mother, whose soul was pierced by a sword of sorrow in the Passion of thy divine Son, and who in His glorious Resurrection wast filled with never-ending joy at His triumph; obtain for us who call upon thee, so to be partakers in the adversities of Holy Church and the sorrows of the Sovereign Pontiff, as to be found worthy to rejoice with them in the consolations for which we pray, in the charity and peace of the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

IN HONOR OF THE SORROWS OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY O most holy and afflicted Virgin! Queen of Martyrs! thou who didst stand motionless beneath the Cross, witnessing the agony of thy expiring Son–through the unceasing sufferings of thy life of sorrow, and the bliss which now more than amply repays thee for thy past trials, look down with a mother’s tenderness and pity on me, who kneel before thee to venerate thy dolors, and place my requests, with filial confidence, in the sanctuary of thy wounded heart; present them, I beseech thee, on my behalf, to Jesus Christ, through the merits of His own most sacred death and passion, together with thy sufferings at the foot of the cross, and through the united efficacy of both obtain the grant of my present petition. To whom shall I resort in my wants and miseries if not to thee, O Mother of Mercy, who, having so deeply drunk of the chalice of thy Son, canst compassionate the woes of those who still sigh in the land of exile? Offer for me to my Savior one drop of the Blood which flowed from His sacred veins, one of the tears which trickled from His divine eyes, one of the sighs which rent His adorable Heart. O refuge of the universe and hope of the whole world, do not reject my humble prayer, but graciously obtain the grant of my petition.

TO OUR LADY OF SORROWS O most holy Virgin, Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ: by the overwhelming grief you experienced when you witnessed the martyrdom, the crucifixion, and the death of your divine Son, look upon me with eyes of compassion, and awaken in my heart a tender commiseration for those sufferings, as well as a sincere detestation of my sins, in order that, being disengaged from all undue affection for the passing joys of this earth, I may sigh after the eternal Jerusalem, and that henceforward all my thoughts and all my actions may be directed towards this one most desirable object. Honor, glory, and love to our divine Lord Jesus, and to the holy and immaculate Mother of God. Amen. –Saint Bonaventure

Prayer Source: Prayer Book, The by Reverend John P. O’Connell, M.A., S.T.D. and Jex Martin, M.A., The Catholic Press, Inc., Chicago, Illinois, 1954

Saint Raymund Nonnatus

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Saint Raymund Nonnatus

Religious of Our Lady of Mercy and Cardinal
(1204-1240)

Saint Raymund Nonnatus was born in Catalonia, Spain, in the year 1204. Motherless from infancy, in his childhood he seemed to find pleasure only in his devotions and serious duties. He chose the Blessed Virgin for his mother, almost as soon as the light of reason made this choice available to him. His father, perceiving in him an inclination to the religious state and unwilling to give up his son, took him from school and sent him to take care of a farm which he owned in the country. Raymund readily obeyed, and, in order to enjoy holy solitude, kept the sheep himself and spent his time in the mountains and forests in holy meditation and prayer. He found there an ancient hermitage containing a portrait of his Blessed Mother, and made this his asylum. There the devil found him and, assuming the disguise of a shepherd, attempted to turn him away from his devotions; but Raymund turned his back on his visitor and called Mary to his assistance. The sole name of the Mother of God caused the demon to disappear, and the hermit prostrated himself and blessed Her for Her assistance.

Some time afterward, he joined the new Order of Our Lady of Mercy for the redemption of captives, and was admitted to profession at Barcelona by the holy founder, Saint Peter Nolasco. Within two or three years after his profession, he was sent into Barbary with a considerable sum of money; in Algiers he purchased the liberty of a great number of slaves. When all his treasure was exhausted, he gave himself up as a hostage for the ransom of others, according to the Rule of his Order. This magnanimous sacrifice served only to exasperate the Moslems, who treated him with uncommon barbarity, until they began to fear that if he died in their hands, they would lose the ransom which had been asked for his deliverance. A crier announced in the streets that anyone who mistreated him would answer for it, if he died.

Therefore he was permitted to go abroad in the streets, which liberty he utilized to comfort and encourage the Christians in chains, and to convert and baptize certain Moslems. Learning of this, their pasha, furious, condemned him to be impaled, but his barbarous sentence was commuted at the insistence of those who had an interest in the ransom payments for the slaves he was replacing. He underwent instead a cruel bastinade, but that torment did not daunt his courage. So long as he saw souls in danger of perishing eternally, he thought he had yet done nothing.

Saint Raymund had no more money to employ in releasing poor captives; and to converse with those of the local beliefs on the subject of religion meant death. He enjoyed sufficient liberty nonetheless to continue the same endeavors, and he did so, hoping either for success or martyrdom. The governor, enraged, ordered our Saint to have his lips pierced and padlocked, then to be imprisoned until his ransom would be brought by members of his Order. He remained in jail for eight months before his brethren arrived with the required sum, sent by Saint Peter Nolasco.

Upon his return to Spain, he was nominated Cardinal by Pope Gregory IX, and the Pope called him to Rome. The Saint was on his way, but had gone no farther than Cardona when he was seized with a violent fever. He died on August 31, 1240, in his thirty-seventh year. His face in death became beautiful and radiant like that of Moses when he descended from the mountaintop, where he had spoken with God. A heavenly fragrance surrounded his body, and cures were effected on behalf of those who came and touched him.

Reflection: This magnanimous Saint gave not only his substance but his liberty, and exposed himself to the most cruel torments and death for the redemption of captives and the salvation of souls. But we, alas! do we not, merely to gratify our prodigality, vanity, or avarice, refuse to give even the superfluity of our possessions to the poor, who for want of it are perishing with cold and hunger? Let us not forget the terrible Judgment of the Last Day, awaiting those who neglect their brethren in need. (Cf. Matt. 25:31-46)

St. Rose of Lima: The Flower of the New World

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St. Rose of Lima: the Flower of the New World

We may not say that St. Rose was the first saint of the New World, for God only knows His own; but she was the first of America’s children to be placed in the calendar of canonized saints–the first flower gathered from that part of the great garden over which St. Dominic has been placed as the husbandman of Jesus Christ.

Almost before she was out of her infancy, that love of Our Lord’s suffering, which was afterwards to become the ruling passion of her life, began to lay hold of little Rose’s heart. How God speaks to the baby souls of those early-chosen children of His special delight; by what channels the Divine secrets are imparted to their barely-opened minds; what marvelous gift enables them to entertain and understand thoughts far beyond their years–we cannot know; but that such special communications are made to some of the Saints even as little children is certain.

In St. Rose’s case the working of these mysterious operations in her heart was witnessed to by the fact that, as a little thing barely able to walk, she would often be found, having managed to escape from her guardians or companions, absorbed in deep infantine contemplation before a picture of the thorn-crowned Christ, in His mantle of scorn, which hung in her mother’s room.

Her own apprenticeship in her Master’s school, too, began early; for from the time that she was three years old Rose de Flores was the subject of one accident or complaint after another, and was kept perpetually in states of suffering which were sharp trials to her childish patience.

This ideal she realized in her life. It is this life of penance and mysticism which is presented to the reader in these pages. Everything in her life calls for admiration, many things for imitation, some, maybe, for explanation. The reader of this record of her ways and works will perforce exclaim: ‘Wonderful is God in His saints’–wonderful in their number, in their graces, in their variety.

St. Rose’s life was eminently wonderful in its marvelous penance, its deep, earnest, and all but continuous prayer, its perfect union with God. She studied in the school of Christ; her book was the Cross; her Master the Crucified. Naturally of delicate health, weak in body, and physically feeble, hers was a life of chronic suffering. To this she added much fasting, abstinence, and penances of every kind, as will be seen from the perusal of this interesting and instructive life. But all her sufferings, whether sent by God or self-inflicted, were borne for God, with God, and in God.

She could say with the Apostle: ‘With Christ I am nailed to the Cross; and I live, now not I, but Christ liveth in me. Her suffering life was a life of detachment from the world–a life of union with God. If she could make her own the words of St. Paul, ‘The world is crucified to me, and I to the world, she could add with equal truth, ‘I live in the faith of the Son of God, Who loved me and delivered Himself for me.’

Saint Rose of Lima

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Saint Rose of Lima

Virgin
(1586-1617)

This lovely flower of sanctity, the first canonized Saint of the New World, was born at Lima, Peru, in 1586. She was christened Isabel, but the beauty of her infant face earned for her the title of Rose, which she thereafter bore. As a child still in the cradle, her silence during a painful surgical operation seemed to foretell the thirst for suffering which would consume her heart.

At an early age she engaged herself as a servant to support her impoverished parents, then worked day and night. In spite of hardships and austerities her beauty ripened with increasing age, and she was openly much admired. Fearing vanity would enter her heart, she cut off her hair, blistered her face with pepper and her hands with lime. She never left the interior of her parents’ house in Canta, for four years, not even to walk in an inviting garden just beyond its walls. She finally obtained her parents’ permission to be enrolled in the Third Order of Saint Dominic; from her childhood she had taken Saint Catherine of Siena as her model, and she then redoubled her penance. The Blessed Sacrament seemed virtually her only food. Her love for it was intense. Her fasting was near miraculous; during Lent in particular, she denied herself her former single piece of bread each day, to consume only a few orange seeds. Her disciplines were of an almost incredible severity, and her hair shirt reached from her shoulders to her wrists and knees; not satisfied with its rudeness, she armed it with iron nails.

The cell of Saint Rose was a garden hut, her couch a box of broken tiles. Concealed by her veil, a silver crown armed with ninety sharp points encircled her head. More than once, when she shuddered at the prospect of a night of torture, a voice said, My cross was yet more painful. The demon tormented her for fifteen years with insupportable temptations; but God sustained His spouse against them, though she would gladly have died rather than live any longer in their clutches. When a Dutch fleet prepared to attack the city of Lima, Rose took her place before the tabernacle, and wept because she felt unworthy to die in its defense, as she hoped she might; the enemy weighed anchor soon afterwards and departed without attempting a siege. All of Saint Rose’s sufferings were offered for the conversion of sinners, and the thought of the multitudes in hell was ever before her soul. She died in 1617, at the age of thirty-one.

Reflection: Rose, pure as driven snow, was filled with deepest contrition and humility, and did constant and terrible penance. Our sins are continual, our repentance passing, our contrition slight, our penance nothing. How will it fare with us?

Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894).

OUR LADY OF CZESTOCHOWA

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OUR LADY OF CZESTOCHOWA

The origin of this miraculous image in Czestochowa, Poland is unknown for absolute certainty, but according to tradition the painting was a portrait of Our Lady done by St. John sometime after the Crucifixion of Our Lord and remained in the Holy Land until discovered by St. Helena of the Cross in the fourth century. The painting was taken to Constaninople, where St. Helena‘s son, the Emperor Constantine, erected a church for its enthronement. This image was revered by the people of the city.

During the siege by the Saracens, the invaders became frightened when the people carried the picture in a procession around the city; the infidels fled. Later, the image was threatened with burning by an evil emperor, who had a wife, Irene, who saved it and hid it from harm. The image was in that city for 500 years, until it became part of some dowries, eventually being taken to Russia to a region that later became Poland.

After the portrait became the possession of the Polish prince, St. Ladislaus in the 15th century, it was installed in his castle. Tartar invaders besieged the castle and an enemy arrow pierced Our Lady’s image, inflicting a scar. Interestingly, repeated attempts to fix the image, artistically have all failed.

Tradition says that St. Ladislaus determined to save the image from repeated invasions, so he went to his birthplace, Opala, stopping for rest in Czestochowa; the image was brought nearby to Jasna Gora [“bright hill”] and placed in a small wooden church named for the Assumption. The following morning, after the picture was carefully placed in the wagon, the horses refused to move. St. Ladislaus understood this to be a sign from Heaven that the image should stay in Czestochowa; thus he replaced the painting in the Church of the Assumption, August 26, 1382, a day still observed as the Feast Day of the painting. The Saint wished to have the holiest of men guard the painting, so he assigned the church and the monastery to the Pauline Fathers, who have devoutly protected the image for the last six hundred years.

Having survived two attacks upon it, Our Lady’s image was next imperiled by the Hussites, followers of the heretic priest, John Hus from Prague. The Hussites did not accept papal authority as coming from Christ and taught that mortal sin deprived an office holder of his position, among other heresies. Hus had been influenced by John Wyclif and became infected with his errors. Hus was tried and condemned at Constance in 1415. The Hussites successfully stormed the Pauline monastery in 1430, plundering the sanctuary. Among the items stolen was the image. After putting it in their wagon, the Hussites went a little ways but then the horses refused to go any further. Recalling the former incident that was so similar, the heretics threw the portrait down to the ground, which shattered the image into three pieces. One of the plunderers drew his sword and slashed the image twice, causing two deep gashes; while attempting a third gash, he was overcome with a writhing agony and died.

The two slashes on the cheek of the Blessed Virgin, together with the one on the throat, not readily visible in our copy, have always reappeared after artistic attempts to fix them. The portrait again faced danger in 1655 by a Swedish horde of 12,000, which confronted the 300 men guarding the image. The band of 300 routed the 12,000 and the following year, the Holy Virgin was acclaimed Queen of Poland.

In September 14, 1920, when the Russian army assembled at the River Vistula, in preparation for invading Warsaw, the Polish people prayed to Our Lady. the next day was the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. The Russians quickly withdrew after the image appeared in the clouds over Warsaw. In Polish history, this is known as the Miracle of Vistula.

During the Nazi occupation of Poland in World War II, Hitler order all religious pilgrimages stopped. In a demonstration of love for Our Lady and their confidence in her protection, a half million Poles went to the sanctuary in defiance of Hitler’s orders. Following the liberation of Poland in 1945, a million and a half people expressed their gratitude to the Madonna by praying before this miraculous image.

Twenty-eight years after the Russian’s first attempt at capturing the city, they successfully took control of Warsaw and the entire nation in 1948. That year more than 800,000 brave Poles made a pilgrimage to the sanctuary at Czestochowa on the Feast of the Assumption, one of the three Feast days of the image; the pilgrims had to pass by the Communist soldiers who patrolled the streets.

Today, the Polish people continue to honor their beloved portrait of the Madonna and Child, especially on August 26, the day reserved by St. Ladislaus. Because of the dark pigment on Our Lady’s face and hands, the image is affectionately called the “Black Madonna,” most beautifully prefigured in the Bible, in the Canticle of Canticles, “I am black but beautiful.” The pigmentation is ascribed primarily to age and the need to keep it hidden for long periods of time in places where the only light was from candles, which colored the painting with smoke.

The miracles attributed to Our Lady of Czestochowa are many and most spectacular. The original accounts of them, some of them cures, are archived by the Pauline Fathers at Jasna Gora.

Papal recognition of the miraculous image was made by Pope Clement XI in 1717. The crown given to the image was used in the first official coronation of the painting, which was stolen in 1909.

Pope Pius X replaced it with a gold one encrusted with jewels.

PRAYER TO OUR LADY OF CZESTOCHOWA

[TO BE SAID EACH DAY UPON ARISING]

HOLY MOTHER of Czestochowa, Thou art full of grace,
goodness and mercy. I consecrate to Thee all my thoughts,
words and actions—-my soul and body. I beseech Thy
blessings and especially prayers for my salvation.
Today, I consecrate myself to Thee, Good Mother, totally
with body and soul amid joy and sufferings to obtain
for myself and others Thy blessings on this earth and
eternal life in Heaven. Amen.

Imprimatur: Cardinal O’ Boyle, Washington, DC